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I need the idiots guide to intonating a fretless.

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jerry J, Feb 5, 2001.


  1. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    Well folks I couldn't find anything on this in the archives so I thought that I would see if anyone here has done this.

    I'm a newbie to the world of fretlessness and I've noticed that the intonation, at the 12th position, appears to be off on my bass. I checked it with my tuner and sho' nuf it is. Is this a weird fretless phenomena or am I not checking it correctly? I'm pretty much thinking that I setup the intonation just like I would do on a fretted bass, right?

    Also, Gruffpuppy has a really good question, on this page, about fretless fingerboard relief. I'm interested in hearing some thoughts on relief on a fretless. Thanks y'all.
     
  2. Intonation on a fretless is a more personalized matter than a fretted Bass. Generally, if your bass has fret markers on the side, you adjust the harmonic to be right on top of where the fret would be, not above or below it.
     
  3. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    Ah yes, it is an unlined fingerboard with top markers.

    What I've found is that it rings the harmonic at the 12th position but when I press down at that point I have to roll my finger, what seems quite a distance to get the tuning right on the tuner. Maybe I need to lower my strings or maybe adjust the neck more flat for less relief. But as I said I'm still real new to the fretless arena.

    Thanks for your reply, Reedo35
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher

    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    If you're rolling your finger towards the bridge to get the note in tune, move your saddle towards the neck; if you're rolling your finger towards the neck, move your saddle towards the butt of the bass.
     
  5. I knew I forgot something! Thanks Chris that's what I was getting at. JJ, don't worry about adjusting the neck just yet. You have to adjust the bridge to your corresponding (hopefully consistent) finger placement. Intonation on the fretless is more a matter of using your ears than anything else.
     
  6. ...go to http://bassplayer.com/ and go to the article titled "Spec Guide: How To Evaluate A Bass." The article uses a fretted bass, but use the same specs between string and board as you would between string and fret.
     
  7. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    Since string height on a fretless drastically affects the tone, I would suggest instead that your strings should be adjusted to the height that gives you the tone you want. High action will give a thumping, round, string-bassy tone with a quick decay; low action will yield a mid-range whiny "growl" (the Jaco tone), especially if you're using roundwounds. The latter may require decreasing the neck relief -- in other words, straightening the neck.

    Set the action first, adjust relief as necessary, then do the intonation.

    You should intonate the bridge to the spot where you're PLANNING to put your finger when you play the 12th "fret". As reedo pointed out, it's going to be important that you are consistent in finger placement. And I also recommend you do the same thing at the 19th "fret" (that's high D on the G string); then go back and check the intonation at the 12th. You might have to reiterate a couple of times.
     
  8. dytakeda

    dytakeda

    Jul 18, 2000
    Eli said:
    "You should intonate the bridge to the spot where you're PLANNING to put your finger when you play the 12th "fret".

    ====

    I don't think this is correct, at least not in the way I read it. The string will always have a midpoint harmonic, regardless of how it's intonated. The harmonic will always be a "true" octave of the open string's pitch. You can't plan on putting your finger anywhere other than where that harmonic is.

    Intonating is simply getting the stopped or fretted note to match the harmonic.
     
  9. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    Thanks all for the tips. I just had my first lesson from a longtime fretless player. He just hated my unlined board but did demontrate and that my finger should be just slightly behind the neck marker. This allows the skin of the finger to place pressure in the correct place. With this in mind I've been working to set up the intonation incorrectly. He looked at the way that I had the bridge adjusted and said that I had done it wrong.

    I do agree that the intonation should be set at the 12th position harmonic point. And that is a great tip to go out to the 19th position and check the intonation at that point also.

    I could just pack it up and take it to the repair shop but I hate to give in. I've never had any problems setting up and intonating any of my fretted instruments
     
  10. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    I agree with your teacher. (Honest, I was gonna say what he said. Honest.)

    dytakeda and I may or may not be understanding each other's words, but it sounds to me like you (JJ) have the right idea. Go git it.